5 common problems in brachycephalic dogs

We are at the beginning of the hottest season of the year. This is the perfect time to talk about brachycephalic dogs because summer is a trying, and sometimes deadly, season for them. Owners of brachycephalic breeds, read this, it could save your dog’s life. Brachyce… What?

Three classes of dogs

One way to categorize dog breeds is by the shape of their skulls. There are the dolichocephalic dogs, whose head is thin and elongated as in all greyhounds, but also as in Doberman and Collie.

Then, there are the mesocephalic dogs, with a medium width and length of skull: these are 75% of the breeds, like most of the dogs that represent Eat Small and the Insect Power: the husky for our dry and wet food WALD made of black soldier fly larvae, the labrador for our snacks MINDFULNESS with insect, banana and chia, the Australian shepherd for our ENERGY line, with goji berries and Hermetia illucens, the jack russel for SPIRIT with insect and spirulina protein… And soon the German shepherd, for our brand-new insect line, available in August 2021. Stay tuned!

The last category is the one of brachycephalic dogs. These are dogs with a short muzzle and a wide head. In this group, we find boxers, shihtzu, Pekingese and of course all bulldogs, including the French bulldog which is found on every bags of Eat Small’s dry food for adult dogs URBAN NATURE, made of meal worm.

5 problems encountered in brachycephalic dogs

Of course, all breeds have their particularities. However, there are certain characteristics that can be found in every breed group, and unfortunately these are not always of benefit to them. But by knowing these characteristics, owners of brachycephalic dogs can help their beloved companion if they are bothered by their genetics. Here are the 5 problems often encountered in brachycephalic dogs.

1. obstructed airways

This is the great danger for brachycephalic dogs during the summer. With their crushed muzzle, these dogs have little or no nostrils open and the opening of the trachea (larynx) blocked by a long palate and thick tongue. They can often be heard breathing loudly as they have to make extra efforts to let air in. This can be more pronounced during exercise and can be life threatening during hot weather. Brachycephalic dogs can’t properly expel heat by panting as a dog with a longer muzzle would. They can quickly suffer from heat stroke and even collapse from lack of oxygen. They sometimes require operations to open the nostrils or shorten the palate if they are very affected daily. But the important thing is to avoid violent exercises and to keep them cool (or in the shade) during the summer.

2. A twisted skeleton

Skeletal deformities are common in brachycephalic dogs and sometimes more pronounced in certain breeds. Cavalier King Charles spaniels and affenpinschers are often affected by vertebral problems, bulldogs regularly suffer from scoliosis (predisposition to disc herniations) and the twisted legs of English bulldogs are almost their trademark (leading to joint problems). These dogs will be very happy if they don’t have to climb stairs regularly. Or if their beloved master carries them in their arms up the very steep stairs. And of course, they’ll benefit of an optimal body weight to avoid extra weight on their back or legs. This is easily achieved with Eat Small line Urban Nature for dogs with low activity level

3. Dental problems

With their small mouths, brachycephalic dogs often have overlapping teeth or baby teeth that do not fall out. Tartar tends to build up quickly, with the resulting problems of gingivitis and other mouthdisorders. They suffer from dental maloclusion and may have difficulty chewing their food. A soft food such as Eat Small’s WALD wet food for gourmets with insects and sweet potatoes can help them. Annual dental exams and teeth cleaning when needed are essential to maintaining good oral health.

4. Food allergies and digestive problems

Certain digestive system problems (regurgitation, vomiting and esophageal diseases) are seen more often in brachycephalic dogs whereas some of them are more subject to food allergies. This is the case for French bulldogs. Insect-based dog food and snacks are an ideal solution for them, as meat protein is the main cause of food allergies. Insects are as nutritious as meat and at the same time hypoallergenic.

5. Eye problems

The flattened muzzle of these breeds can compress the tear ducts and brachycephalic dogs may seem to cry constantly. To avoid skin irritations under the eyes, it’s important to wipe regularly the hair with a soft towel. Corneal ulcers may also occur if the hair on the muzzle is too close to the eyes and constantly rubs them. If you see your brachycephalic dog with closed or very watery eyes it may be due to the discomfort associated with those hair. Ask your veterinary to have a look at it.

Pay attention to your dog’s needs

If you are the owner of a brachycephalic dog, you now know what can affect him. An annual physical examination is essential and don’t hesitate to consult a veterinarian if you think your Vierbeiner is affected by any of the above-mentioned problems. You will be a better friend to your dog. Have a good summer and beware of heat stroke!


Véronique Glorieux is a canadian-board veterinarian who cumulates more than 10 years of medical work and experience with dogs and cats. Animal wellfare and environment are 2 topics that moves her. She lives now in Berlin, where she co-founded Eat Small and uses her experience in a different field of practice. With healthy and sustainable insect-based pet food she aims to support both the health of pets and of the planet.


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